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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Performance

Although there is a Wi-Fi logo on the package, the WNR2500 is not currently Wi-Fi certified. However, NETGEAR told us the WNR2500 is currently undergoing Wi-Fi certification testing. If you want to check later to see if it has received certification, you can check here.

The WNR2500 is Wi-Fi certified. It defaulted to Auto channel mode and Auto 20/40 MHz channel width upon power-up. The router prompted for a WPS PIN, not push button when our Win 7 test client attempted connection. Entering inthe PIN yeilded a WPA2/AES connection.

The WNR2500 passed both the Fat Channel Intolerant test as well as the 40 MHz co-existence test. For the Fat Channel test, it dropped to 20 MHz bandwidth when the bit was set and went immediately back to 40 MHz bandwidth when the bit was cleared. Similarly for the 40 MHz coexistence test; it dropped to 20 MHz bandwidth when set to Chan 8 and changed immediately back to 40 MHz bandwidth when the channel was set to Auto.

NOTE: Unchecking the "Enable 20/40 MHz Coexistence" box (Advanced Wireless page) causes both Fat channel and 40 MHz coexistence tests to fail.

For throughput testing, all tests were run using our standard wireless test process and V1.0.0.18NA version firmware loaded. The router was first reset to factory defaults. The channel 6 was set and the mode was set to mixed. Our standard 8" distance was maintained between the router and test chamber antennas in all test positions.. The 0° position had the front of the router facing the chamber antennas.

Before we start, let's first explore the "3x faster than competing N450 routers" claim prominently featured on the WNR2500's marketing materials. If all N450 routers support the same 450 Mbps maximum link rate, how can one be three times faster than the others?

NETGEAR's answer once again shows the creativity of wireless marketing. NETGEAR bases its 3X claim on the fact that some N450 routers are dual-band products composed of N150 2.4 GHz and N300 5 GHz radios. The only example I could quickly find is Belkin's N450 Wireless Dual-Band N+ (F9K1105) router. But all it takes is one for the claim to be true...

The Benchmark Summary below shows the average of throughput measurements made in all test locations.

NETGEAR WNR2500 Benchmark Summary

NETGEAR WNR2500 Benchmark Summary

N450 class routers aren't new, but they aren't that common, either. If you filter the router charts for N450, you'll find that there are only three routers including the WNR2500. The other two, the TRENDnet TEW-691TR and the D-Link DIR-665 were both reviewed during the summer of 2010.

Back then, we used a different wireless testing methodology, so you can't really can't directly compare the results. Since there aren't any other N450 class routers tested with the new testing methodology, I decided to compare the WNR2500 results with the 2.4 GHz results from some of the current crop of "AC" dual band routers. Although AC router 5 GHz radios are new, most use 802.11n devices on the 2.4 GHz side.

All of the routers in the table below were tested using the same testing methodology and all of the routers support three-stream, i.e. 450 Mbps, maximum link rates in 2.4 GHz. However, since our test standard uses only 20 MHz bandwidth mode in 2.4 GHz, the results below reflect that setting.

The routers included are the three other routers mentioned in the "Inside" section above that use the QCA9958 SoC chipset as well as the top-rated AC1750 class router, the ASUS RT-AC66U, which uses Broadcom chipsets. The results are sorted by total average downlink throughput found in this chart.

Average

Average Throughput comparison - routers supporting N450 class in 2.4 GHz

As you can see, the WNR2500 is essentially tied with the TP-Link Archer C7 for second place for downlink throughput but comes in fourth for uplink throughput for the routers compared.

Throughput vs. Attenuation plots provide a better idea about how the router is going to perform throughout its entire range. Tests are run with 3 dB of attenuation added for each data point. More attenuation simulates more distance from the router. Routers performing well with higher attenuation are more likely to provide better coverage.

Since we don't have other N450 routers that were tested using the same methodology, I decided to take a slightly different approach when choosing routers for the Throughput vs. Attenuation plots. Here are my selections and why I chose them:

  • ASUS RT-AC66U - At $170, it's the #1 ranked AC1750 class router that uses the same 3X3 MIMO technology found in the WNR2500. It's also one of the best performing router that we've tested.
  • Edimax BR-6478AC - Priced at $70, the Edimax router is the #2 ranked AC1200 class router. Granted, it uses a 2X2 configuration on both bands, but it shows the kind of performance you can get in a dual-band router that only costs $10 more than the WNR2500.
  • TP-LINK Archer C7 - At $120, the Archer C7 is the #2 ranked AC1750 class router. I chose this router because it uses the same 2.4 GHz radio as the WNR2500.

For the 2.4 GHz downlink, there are a couple of surprises. First, the WNR2500 uses the same chipset as the TP-Link Archer C7 and the same 3X3 technology as both the ASUS and the TP-LINK. So you might expect that the initial low attenuation performance would be more in line with those two. Instead, at low attenuation levels, the throughput tracks fairly well with the Edimax, which uses 2X2 (N300 class) technology on the 2.4 GHz band.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

The reason for the lower performance, however, seems to be the limitation of the WNR2500's 100 Mbps Ethernet. But where this chart gets more interesting is at higher levels of attenuation. Beyond 48 dB of attenuation, the WNR2500 outperforms the other three routers out to the end of the test at 63 dB of attenuation. At that level, the WNR2500 is still sustaining 23 Mbps of throughput compared to the second best performer, the ASUS, which managed only 10 Mbps.

What this means is that you'll likely get better performance at a distance with the WNR2500, and it's more likely to stay connected at greater distances than the other three.

The 2.4 GHz uplink tests tell a similar story. At low attenuation levels, the WNR2500 tracks the Edimax almost perfectly out to about 36 dB of attenuation. But notice how the WNR2500 maintains constant performance levels out to 51 dB. And beyond 48 dB of attenuation, it outperforms the other three routers finishing the test still having 39 Mbps of throughput!

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

As with the 2.4 GHz downlink test, the WNR2500 is constrained by its 100 Mbps Ethernet ports. At low levels of attenuation, its performance mimics a 2X2 router. But at higher levels of attenuation, the WNR2500 outperforms the other routers. This again equates to better performance at a distance and greater range.

Closing Thoughts

At a time when everyone seems focused on the latest technology delivered by the new 802.11ac routers, you might ask why NETGEAR would bring out a single-band router based on technology that's more than three years old. Well, despite what wireless marketeers would have us believe, most of us still spend only $60 - $70 for a router. And most choose simple N300 and N600 products that match the capability of the devices they need to connect to.

Since most of us also don't have N450 class clients, that part of the WNR2500 won't help improve most buyers' wireless "lifestyles". But our testing showed that NETGEAR has really delivered the goods on improved range in the WNR2500. And that is something that most every router buyer is looking for.

At around $60, the WNR2500 could be a smart buy if you can live without Gigabit Ethernet and don't need to light up the 5 GHz airwaves.

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